One thing is certain: The new economic recovery legislation certainly got a lot of people stimulated. It remains to be seen what its effect will be on the economy, but we know a few things for sure.
For starters, a lot of money will be allocated to construction—somewhere in the neighborhood of $135 billion. It will be spent in a variety of ways: Some, like retrofitting government buildings, will be in the form of direct expenditures; other spending will come in the form of grants to cities and states already jockeying for their place in line. Some spending will be expedited; some will take a while. Turns out it's not that easy to spend $787 billion.
We also know attorneys and accountants will be happy as they usually are when Congress is busy. There are myriad new tax credits and rules to sort through.
And we know the bill will refocus some attention on energy efficiency in homes and buildings. Homeowners, in particular, will have new, meaningful incentives for energy-improving retrofits. Also, one of the biggest winners in the new legislation is the U.S. Department of Energy; the agency will receive about $37.5 billion in additional funds.
The Small Business Administration also is being given more money—and more flexibility—and loans to small businesses will be more plentiful and easier to come by.
As for the rest of the package? Well, one person's stimulus is another person's earmark, and we were less than enamored with the process used to write the final bill.
The bill contains a number of provisions that will affect our industry and don't stimulate the economy in any meaningful way. For example, there are Davis-Bacon Act requirements for projects funded by the bill. However, NRCA and others were successful in knocking out requirements that contractors working on projects funded by the bill use E-Verify.
But like most legislation written these days, this bill contains much that will be left to interpretation by congressional committees and government agencies, so it is and will be a work in progress.
What we know for sure is that the government will be bigger, more powerful and more intrusive than ever. We doubt that's healthy for our industry or the country. Meanwhile, though, we'll continue to sort through the bill and report on all the components that will affect our industry.
Bill Good is NRCA's executive vice president.